May 25th, 2008

Galen 2013


CoriolanusAshland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare

It's depressing.  This centuries' old play about events a millennium earlier than that still speaks too accurately about the crowd/personality/political dynamics of the campaigns featured today on CNN and Fox.

There is no one-for-one tracking between Shakespeare's characters and McCain, Romney, and the rest.  But, at times, when the self-righteousness or their temporizing morality is front and center, being refined for us future generations, I heard John and Mitt.

The self-centered, self-serving fickleness of public opinion is there, too.  Is there nothing new or nothing that we have learned?

It is the superb production that makes this dusty old story so powerful. 

Danforth Comins as Caius Martius blazes with energy, anger, self-righteousness, and heroism.  Comins (pictured on the left on the balcony) has beefed up for this role, and he looks the physical hero.  Butch, brash, patriotic, and studly. His focused but uncontrollable rage owns the intimate stage.

And, the stage is set just so perfectly.  Housed in the small New Theater in a theater-in-the-round configuration, Coriolanus is quick, sharp, and dangerous.  Scenes change with appropriate war-like cracks and flashes.  Crash-bang. No waiting. It's war. It's busy times.

The sparseness, the placing of characters among the audience, the striped-down stylized fox holes, cellphones and PDAs, and modern drag are not conceits. They work.

Getting me to accept Shakespeare set in any period except the time of the story or the time of Shakespeare is a high hurdle which Coriolanus easily cleared. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit one of my favorite moments.  Amidst a lot of street hubbub about what is to happen next, one character fumbles and unobtrusively gazes into his cellphone. He looks up, and starts off, "The auguries say..."  The cellphone as a mystical source of information: wonderful!
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Like Ashland's production of King John, Ashland's production of Coriolanus left me wondering why it is so infrequently produced.

Like Wit, Distracted, and Sylvia, I left the theater unable to talk coherently for minutes. My mind was a jumble of images that needed release... or at least settling.

Like listening to CNN election coverage, Coriolanus left me shaking my head, depressed.

Ozdachs Rating: Rating 5 out of 5